On 1 July 2007 all enclosed public places in England become smoke free. I am really looking forward to seeing the impact this sweeping change will make to peoples social lives. The scientific evidence on the dangers of passive smoking is irrefutable. Roy Castle who spent his life working in smoky environments lost his life to cancer caused by other people's smoking. It is only right and proper that anyone providing a service to others should not be harmed as a consequence.
Although the law has been brought in to protect the health of staff whose work is serving the public, but it is not only them who will benefit. On a personal note it will be wonderful to go out for a drink with friends and not come home smelling like an ashtray. I will not miss having red itchy eyes or losing my voice, side effects I frequently experienced, after being in a room full of smoke for too long.
Many people have argued for the rights of smokers to smoke. What has always bothered me is the fact that the rights of people who need to breathe clean air have been ignored. My son Alex is asthmatic and quickly becomes wheezy and tight chested if anyone near him smokes. Going out for a family meal, something that most people take for granted, has been a nightmare for us. Although most pubs and restaurants have stated smoke free dining is provided, nine times out of ten, on arriving at the restaurant we find our table is next door to that of someone who is smoking. Asthma UK has found that thousands of people are similarly affected. The change in law will make it possible for anyone, who for medical reasons cannot tolerate second hand smoke, to now be able to have a normal social life.
Sunday the 1 July will be a historic date. My guess is that in ten years time we will be looking back on this in amazement and wondering how it was ever thought okay for smokers to light up wherever and whenever they wanted. Some people working in the NHS will remember a time where a patient smoking in their beds was the norm. I recently watched a film from the 60s – The Day of the Triffids – and was astounded by the hospital scene where a nurse assisted a patient, by lighting their cigarette for them! The fact the patient had just had eye surgery and was temporary blinded … and was left sitting in bed smoking, amused me for other reasons.
Members of the RCN voted in 2004 overwhelmingly in support of smoke free public places and charged the RCN to lobby the government on their behalf. Much work was done by ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) to bring together all non-governmental organisations, charities and medical colleges to work towards the goal of new legislation to protect workers health. It was a culmination of many years of research and preparation that finally brought about the circumstances that encouraged the government to bring in the new legislation. I am proud to have been part of the large team of people who lobbied to bring this change about. This is the biggest public health change I have seen in my life and the benefits will be felt by generations to come.
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"I tend to use a rather egocentric scale for measuring the absurdity of these things. I was eight when my grandfather died of bronchopneumonia, secondary to lung cancer, which no one doubted for a second was caused by smoking. What's hard to comprehend is that the first major research proposing a link between smoking and lung cancer was in the 1920s, and follow-up studies confirmed it in the 40s and 60s. I agree with Jennifer, but think our indignation should go much further. When these pro-smoking cretins whinge about people infringing their rights - we should have a right not to be exposed to carcinogens (itchy eyes is only the tip of the iceberg). Personally, like the columnist who advocates "keying" SUVs to protest against global warming, I'd like to see some vigilante action on this issue - snatch/snap/dowse every cigarette you see, it's not like they'll catch you with their blackened lungs! Incitements to disorder aside, let's not forget that the "right" to smoke is an artefact of centuries of ignorance (eg, smoking dispels bubonic plague) and decades of taxation that funded our armed forces, until the burden of smoking-related illness on the NHS dwarfed any "benefit" - Merf, Farringdon
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